Zendaya woke to the sound of sirens.
“What is that bloody noise?” Araminta demanded, sitting up in bed and rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
The door burst open and Myst stood there with Alexia.
“Get out of beds, girls! It’s begun!” Alexia cried.
Zendaya flew out of bed and to Mysts and Alexia’s side. “What’s going on? Has the Darkness attacked?”
“Close enough,” Alexia muttered angrily. “There’s been some kind of betrayal from within our own people. A couple of students and Hunters who thought the Darkness would be a better master to serve.” She kicked the wall angrily. Araminta had gotten out of bed and joined them.
“Girls, please change and head down to the dining hall,” Rakshata ordered as she passed them. Her pace was brisk and she looked more serious that Zendaya had ever seen her. She wore her usual purple dress and took the stairs two at a time as she descended to the dining hall.
“See you guys a moment,” Alexia said as she and Myst headed back to their rooms. Zendaya and Araminta turned and quickly chose some clothes and changed in their separate bathrooms.
They joined Myst and Alexia in the hall and rushed down the stairs.
In the dining hall, Hunters and student jostled each other and cries went up from every end.
“SILENCE.” Baramore’s voice boomed across the hall. Everyone fell silent and Berret took the stage.
“As you have all heard by now, a few hours ago, we had a betrayal from within our own walls. Around twenty students and Hunters were caught trying to aid the Darkness in getting into the school. Do not fear,” she assured as worried cries went up, “they were caught before they could succeed and have now been locked in the dungeons below the basement.”
Zendaya looked around the hall. She didn’t see Nevara and wondered if her sister had been caught as well. Though the thought twisted her heart with worry, it also freed her from having to worry about Nevara when the real fight came.
“We should kill them!” Natalia’s voice rang out. “They betrayed us and deserve the death they would have delivered onto us!”
Cries of agreement went up all through the hall. Zendaya saw the worried look on Berret and Baramore’s faces.Griffinand Drey weren’t present, and Zendaya wondered what they thought of some of their Hunters being turncoats. Zendaya wondered if Natalia would force an execution of the students and Hunters that had betrayed them. She couldn’t imagine Berret ever agreeing to something like that.
Berret held up a hand for silence. “We are not killing them. They are prisoners and that is enough.” Her voice was so hard and harsh that it left no room for objection.
“We wanted you to know about these turn of events so you would be prepared. If the Darkness was ready to come in stealthily tonight, he will come in with force tomorrow. We need to be prepared. This fight has begun.” Baramore stood straight and proud. Zendaya had heard how amazing a marksman he was rumored to be, but she had never seen him in real combat.
“Please go back to your rooms and be ready to fight in the morning. We are counting on all of you to protect and defend this school. If it falls, not only will the Shadows have lost, but both Clans of Hunters as well.” Berret stepped down from the stage as a sign that they were allowed to leave.
Muttering broke out around the hall as Berret and Baramore left. Zendaya turned to Alexia and Myst. Araminta had left them while Berret had been speaking.
“Where did she go?” Alexia asked, looking around. Myst and Zendya shrugged in response.
“I would say to find Ciel, but I doubt that right now,” Zendaya muttered.
“What happened with Ciel?” Alexia asked.
“They had a major fight last night,” Myst informed her in her soft voice.
“Really?” Alexia rasied her eyesbrows. “Weird. They seem like that perfect couple that noghting could go wrong between.”
“You know, until one of them turns out to be helping the Darkness.” Zendaya whirled around to find Natalia standing behind them sneering with her entourage of pixies and faeries.
“What did you say?” Alexia growled, stepping toward her.
“I said, your little friend’s boyfriend was one of the traitors caught last night,” Natalia repeated. Zendaya could see form the look in the pixie’s eyes that she was enjoying the conflict she was causing.
“Thanks for telling us, now LEAVE,’ Myst snarled.
Natalia shrugged and turned away with her friends. Zendaya looked around the hall, trying to find Ciel’s silver blond head or Araminta’s darker one. She couldn’t locate either one.
“Do you think she was telling the truth?” Alexia asked.
“It would make sense with the fight they had,” Zendaya muttered.
Myst nodded agreement. “I wouldn’t think the two of them would fight unless it was over something big.”
“And being an aid of the Darkness definitely qualifies as big,” Alexia added.
“Hey guys.” Araminta walked up behind Alexia, head down, hair covering her face.
“What happened?” Alexia asked her, placing a hand on her shoulder.
“Nothing,” Araminta muttered, shrugging off the hand and turning around. “I’m going to go back to my room to get some rest. See you in the morning.”
Zendaya watched her roommate leave with narrowed eyes. “Is it just me, or was there something strange about that whole thing?”
Alexia nodded. “There was definitely something off about her.”
“Girls, please get to bed. You need to be fresh in the morning.” Professor Spriggla was hurrying by with Professor Markowito as she said the words.
Zendaya glanced around the hall and noticed they were the only ones still there. “Well, I guess we oughta prepare for tomorrow, huh?”
“Who knew it would be this close?” Alexia asked. “I mean, I get that we were practicing and all. It just never occurred to me that we’d be fighting them before Rhea got back. Or that it would be this soon and at such short notice.” Myst nodded.
“Well, I guess we just have to be brave and take it as it comes tomorrow, eh?” Zendaya asked. “Hey, you’re both in Rising Sun, right?” Zendaya asked to confirm they would all be fighting tomorrow. Alexia and Myst both nodded grimly.
“Well, this’ll be a fun experience,” Alexia commented as they left the dining hall and walked up the stairs.
“I don’t quite know if ‘fun’ is the right word for this, Lexx,” Zendaya commented. Myst laughed.
“Well, let whatever comes come and we’ll get through this,” Alexia said as she walked into her room. Myst and Zendaya nodded and walked to their own rooms.
As Zendaya got into her bed she looked over at the sleeping form of Araminta and wondered what was wrong with her. Then she looked up at the ceiling and wondered how the next day would go. Would they be able to defeat the Darkness? What happened if the school was overrun? This school currently held the majority of the world’s Shadows and nearly all of its Hunters. If they fell, their races would fall with them.
They were no longer only fighting for themselves; they were fighting for their futures.